The publication of video footage allegedly showing British troops beating Iraqi youngsters during the course of a routine patrol in Basra continues to generate a storm of protest. The Sunday paper News of the World says the scenes were filmed in 2004 by an army corporal, whom it has not named.
Military commentator Colonel Bob Stewart says a thorough investigation is vital: “It seems to be systematic, it could be systematic, and one must ask the question ‘does this sort of thing happen when there aren’t cameras there?’ and presumably one must answer that question by saying ‘probably yes’.”
British troops are credited with having established good relations with Iraqi locals. A British Army spokesman has voiced concerns that the publication of the images could lead to reprisals against personnel currently serving in Iraq.
Reaction to the footage has been swift and damning. A government spokesman denounced the images as “shocking”, while Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised they will be investigated thoroughly. The Ministry of Defence has launched an inquiry into the video images.